Shelling Sanibel: The Sanibel Stoop

by Chris on January 5, 2012

Sanibel Island has long been known for shelling. In honor of the Sanibel Shell Fair and Show’s 75th anniversary, the island will attempt to break the Guinness Book of World Records with its “Sanibel Stoop.”

Shelling Sanibel Stoop

Every professional travel writer, it seems, has a happy place, a destination where they return not so much to gather new material, but to unwind and relax. For me, that place is Sanibel Island, Florida. 

Captiva Tween Waters Inn

My parents started taking us to Sanibel when I was a teenager. Eventually, they bought a condo there and now spend most of the winter on the Florida Gulf Coast. I’ve visited almost every year since I was 16; I love the area so much that I chose to get married on neighboring Captiva Island at the ‘Tween Waters Inn. We love how they decorate for Christmas.

Shelling, Sanibel Stoop

Sanibel’s claim to fame is the vast amount of shells that wash up on its beach every day. The island has an eco bent, and unlike other beaches on Florida’s Gulf Coast, resorts and condo associations are forbidden from removing sea debris. That bothers some people, who don’t like seeing seaweed, horseshoe crab skeletons and other things that wash up (I’ve seen everything from starfish to sand dollars to an immense dead sea turtle). But for shellers, it’s paradise.

Shelling Sanibel Stoop


There’s even a name for the bent over posture of the people who you see walking the beach looking for treaures: The Sanibel Stoop.

Shelling Sanibel Stoop

The island has capitalized on its shelling reputation for more than a century. In the early 1900s, two of Sanibel’s first hotels, Casa Ybel and The Matthews, used to hold a competition for guests over who could find the best and rarest shell. Hallie “Granny” Matthews hosted the first Shell Show & Fair in her hotel lobby starting in the late 1920s, and by 1931, the event moved to the Sanibel Community Association’s (SCA) Community House.

Shelling Sanibel Stoop

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Sanibel Shell Fair & Show. In honor of the anniversary, businesses and associations will be holding “Shellebration” activities around the island, including an attempt to break the Guinness Book of World Record for number of people on a shell scavenger hunt.

The “flash Sanibel stoop,” so to speak, will take place at 10 a.m. on Feb. 17 at Bowman’s Beach. Anyone who participates will be sign their names and be immortalized in an aerial photo that will be sent to Guinness (the current record is 208 people).

If you’re still confused about what the Sanibel Stoop is, here’s a handy YouTube video that talks about how to do it. Happy shelling!


| Chris Gray Faust is a veteran journalist, travel expert, social media butterfly - and editrix of this site. Like what you read? Check out her writing, editing and social media services.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Traci January 5, 2012 at 4:25 pm

I can’t wait to see if they break the world record next month! I would love to be a part of it (or any non-life threatening world record attempt, for that matter)!


Margo January 5, 2012 at 4:32 pm

I love the “Sanibel stoop”! I’ve visited that area one time before with my grandparents when I was a teen and I remember being amazed by how different the shells were from the ones on the East coast, and so beautiful. Christmas looks as if it would be really fun around there.


Abby January 5, 2012 at 10:03 pm

Beautiful! I grew up in Florida and have fond memories of Sanibel … But I was too young to really picture it — until now!


Bret @ Green Global Travel January 6, 2012 at 6:55 am

Loved seeing this post, as we consistently describe Sanibel as our home away from home. I didn’t discover it until I was in my 20s, but I’ve probably been back 15 times since then (my daughter’s 10, and she’s been 5-6 times already). It’s truly a magical place, and the seashells there are phenomenal! Thanks for sharing.


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